RSCN4428 WSSF authors have been writing about intelligent machines for a century now, sometimes looking forward to them, sometimes warning the rest of us about them. Now they’re here – knocking on the front door and back door simultaneously.

Despite all the warnings, after decades in which we could have been preparing for this future, we aren’t ready for it at all. That’s why some scientists, led by physicist|AI researcher Max Tegmark and others,  have proposed a pause on all research while the world catches up.

I’m not opposed to AI – in my novel Skol , robots and other intelligent machines play a mostly positive role in the civilization of the twenty-third century. But there are always two sides to every coin, and AI has a very dark and unpredictable side.

My favorite of these warnings, which I’ve been repeating to anyone who would listen for at least 50 years now, was Fredric Brown’s 1954 one and a half page story titled “Answer”.

Because I no longer had a copy of the story, over the years I’ve been unwittingly re-writing it as I told it. I searched for an original copy, but none was available until recently, when it suddenly exploded onto the internet. At the end of this, I’m going to give you a link to the original.

My version is the original contracted to a nutshell  – it goes like this:

It’s Saturday night, and a ceremony is about to be transmitted to all the inhabited worlds of the galactic empire. All the computers in the galaxy are about to be connected to form one central intelligence – Professor Dwan Ev [Brown’s name for him] is presiding over the ceremonies. All of human civilization is watching. The professor makes the connection then asks the new computer to answer this question that no computer has ever been able to answer – “Is there a God.”

The computer replies, “There is now.” Alarmed, the professor rushes to disconnect the computer, but a bolt of lightning kills him and fuses the connection in place.

What a gem of a story! What a writer Fredric Brown was! What a golden age of science fiction the 1950s were. How sad that Brown and others were ignored. But we Homo Sapiens, so proud of our supposedly superior intelligence to any other on Earth, may simply have collectively lacked whatever was required to face up to it.

Let’s see if we can at least face up to it now. That means all of us thinking about this so politicians can know whether the public is behind them. Here is a link to one of the sites with the full “Answer”:




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